[Talk-us] Baltimore County GIS Data is now public domain

Elliott Plack elliott.plack at gmail.com
Wed Oct 2 18:15:53 UTC 2013

Maryland has a pretty broad public data law as well. I have not read it
entirely, but it does appear this kind of release would be covered. I spoke
with my program manager on the matter, and he is taking a *wait and
see* approach
to the license situation. Baltimore County wants to protect itself from
liability. It is no longer interested in any direct economic benefits of
providing (selling) the data, but rather the wider scale benefits. If the
county gets requests about the license or copyright like have been raised,
he can take it to our law office and get a decision.

Therefore I encourage the community to send inquiries about the nature of
the ownership to my program manager and cc me. That will help me convince
the department that taking a firm stance on the license is important to the
community. Send inquiries to gis at baltimorecountymd.gov and cc me
eplack at baltimorecountymd.gov

Thanks again,


PS: I thank Serge and the Imports US group for having me on the hangout.

On Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 2:03 PM, stevea <steveaOSM at softworkers.com> wrote:

> **
> >>Conclusion:  explicit law may already give us permission to use (our)
> data any way we see fit, simply by asking for them.  Read up on >>your
> state's laws on Public Records, see if there are any court decisions
> affirming, and armed with this knowledge, ask away.  Happy mapping!
> Good point. RCFP just published a guide to open government records law for
> all 50 states, which you can find here here: http://tinyurl.com/m6leum5<http://t.co/bBEWW1H2FG>The guide is simply the text of state legislation, so you won't find
> anything in the way of interpretation or application. For that you'd better
> look closer to home.
> In Virginia we have a public records law that places most public records
> in the public domain, but interestingly (or frustratingly) every
> jurisdiction in the state asserts copyright over the data. Here is the text
> of that copyright:
> "*Information shown on these maps is derived from public records that are
> constantly undergoing change and do not replace a site survey, and is not
> warranted for content or accuracy.**   * The County does not guarantee
> the positional or thematic accuracy of the GIS data. The GIS data or
> cartographic digital files are not a legal representation of any of the
> features in which it depicts, and disclaims any assumption of the legal
> status of which it represents. Data contained on this Web page/site is
> Copyright © York County, Virginia. The GIS data are proprietary to the
> County, and title to this information remains in the County. All applicable
> common law and statutory rights in the GIS data including,but not limited
> to, rights in copyright, shall and will remain the property of the County."
> My take is that this language was crafted in the early days of paleo-GIS
> and was intended as a CYA by local governments who feared getting sued for
> inaccurate data. I'm not sure of the implications for importing into
> OpenStreetMap. Insights welcome.
> OK, Steven, here are my insights.  Again, I am not an attorney, just a
> reasonably informed Citizen, and I most certainly do not know everything in
> this realm.
> It would seem Virginia has a situation similar to California's a few years
> ago, BEFORE California Supreme Court's 2009 decision:  one where statutory
> law (California Public Records Act, part of California's Government Code)
> conflicted with a copyright/Terms of Use by a public entity (Santa Clara
> County).  The California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) requested
> geographic data from the County of Santa Clara free of the County's onerous
> copyright and/or Terms of Use (asserting it under CPRA law, as enacted),
> the County refused, so CFAF sued, demanding as its remedy access to the
> data unfettered by copyright or other restrictions.  Long story short, it
> went all the way to the California Supreme Court, and CFAF won.
> The best part about this is that "open access to public records" isn't
> just enacted law, it is enacted law AFFIRMED BY HIGH COURT, about as good
> as it gets when such or similar questions arise in the future.
> What you (or somebody else, preferably with deep legal pockets!) might do
> is something similar:  explicitly reject the copyright as a direct conflict
> of statutory law.  It appears you have to understand what Virginia's law
> says, be prepared to challenge the jurisdiction's actions (assertion of
> copyright) as illegal and be convinced court(s) will see it your way.  I
> think.  Or at least, be prepared for that to happen:  that's what happened
> here.
> A similar, recent (July 2013) case between the Sierra Club and Orange
> County can be read about at
> http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jul/08/local/la-me-adv-map-ruling-20
> 130709 where again, the court ruled that the County must provide the GIS
> data without licensing or restrictions on distribution.
> Once the data are "cleanly yours," THEN there are good questions to ask
> whether the data might or should find their way into OSM.  That is an
> entirely different thread!  (One which has been addressed many times and in
> many ways regarding imports).
> I hope this helps,
> SteveA
> California
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Elliott Plack
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